More Steven Stamkos speculation (yes, again!) plus an update on Radim Vrbata and the latest on the Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
Should the Leafs pursue Stamkos?
TSN: James Duthie asked the panel if the Toronto Maple Leafs should pursue Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos if he becomes available. Bob McKenzie believes they should via free agency, believing he’s young enough to be part of the Leafs rebuilding program, citing his offensive abilities. Craig Button, however, points out Stamkos will be in his thirties when the Leafs are finally ready to win, believing they have other big holes to fill. Jeff O’Neill points out the Leafs lack a number-one centerman and believes they should pursue him. Button also points out the Leafs lack players to take advantage of Stamkos’ talent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Button. The Leafs are supposed to be doing things different this time, eschewing big-name acquisitions in favor of drafting and developing their own stars. Acquiring Stamkos flies in the face of that logic. Trading for him means giving up some of those promising assets, plus paying out over $10.5 million annually over the next seven years to keep him off the UFA market.
If they pursue him via free agency, they’ll pay out a big chunk of change to a player who, as Button notes, will be in his 30s and past his prime by the time the Leafs are legitimate playoff contenders again.
Adding Stamkos would be a short-sighted move by the Leafs, setting back their rebuilding process whilst tying up a big chunk of payroll needed to re-sign future stars like William Nylander and Mitch Marner.
Will the Canucks trade Vrbata?
TSN 1040 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Bob McKenzie suggests it’s not a certainty the Vancouver Canucks will trade winger Radim Vrbata this season. While he admits it’s possible if the Canucks are out of playoff contention by the Feb. 29 trade deadline, he also notes the Canucks front office and coaching staff are competitive. If they’re still in playoff contention, McKenzie doubts they’ll dump assets for future considerations. Vrbata is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If what McKenzie suggests holds true, we can forget about Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis hitting the trade block if the Canucks remain playoff contenders by Feb. 29.
Latest on the Penguins.
TSN 1050 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): McKenzie believes the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to make trades, pursuing a top-four, puck-moving defenseman and “an elite level skill guy” to play alongside Sidney Crosby. He notes such moves are difficult to make, given their limited cap space and how they’ve already cashed in several draft picks and young players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dupuis’ retirement should free up $3.75 million in cap space for the Penguins if they wish to take on additional salary. However, I think they need a coaching change more than they need a trade right now.
Since Mike Johnston took over, the Penguins’ offensive production has steadily declined. In 2013-14, their last season under Dan Bylsma, the Penguins were fifth in goals-per-game. Last season, their first under Johnston, they were 19th. This season, they’re 26th. For a team with scoring stars like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, they shouldn’t be sitting that low in offensive production.
They also haven’t improved defensively, giving up the third-most shots-against per game this season. In 2013-14, they gave up the 10th fewest. If this doesn’t scream coaching problem, I don’t know what does.